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CHICAGO—The Obama Foundation and Chicago Public Schools today announced the winners of the first-ever civic action recognition awards, which recognize students, educators, schools, and partners who have made a powerful impact in their communities and beyond through civic engagement both inside and outside of the classroom. Chicago’s very own Keke Palmer will offer inspirational remarks to open the awards ceremony which brings together 300 attendees to honor finalists and winners. The multifaceted entertainer - actress, singer, host, author and philanthropist - will also congratulate and engage with the award winners during the ceremony.

This recognition is part of the Obama Foundation and Chicago Public Schools’ joint commitment to recognizing and uplifting young Chicagoans and the local organizations and people who are empowering them to make their voices heard and impacting their communities for the better. All winners will receive a Foundation-sponsored grant to support projects that will allow them to elevate their work and positively impact communities across the city of Chicago.

“We are proud to join Chicago Public Schools in honoring the exemplary civic engagement work that goes on every day in our schools and communities,” said the Obama Foundation’s Chief Engagement Officer Michael Strautmanis. “Our mission at the Obama Foundation is to inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world, and these students, educators, schools, and organizations are leading the way right here in our own backyard.”

“As part of our shared vision to empower the next generation of young leaders, this recognition honors the students, educators, schools and organizations who make a positive impact in their communities and beyond,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “In partnership with the Obama Foundation, we are building upon Chicago’s rich history of civic activism and further establishing Chicago Public Schools as a national leader in civic education and engagement.”

Winners were selected in four categories that recognized leadership in civic engagement:

1. Students who lead impactful projects in their schools that foster civic learning and empower student voice2. Schools that model civic leadership by providing creative and powerful engagement opportunities for students3. Educators who go above and beyond to support the next generation of young leaders4. Community organizations that provide young people opportunities to become civically engaged

“These students, educators, and partners exemplify the goal of civics education by effecting change in their communities while empowering and inspiring others to do the same,” said CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya D. McDade. “Every student in every neighborhood should have an outlet for their voices to be heard, and Chicago Public Schools is committed to building upon our focus on civic education to expand opportunities for our students.”

A committee comprised of civic leaders and education stakeholders selected an elementary school and high school winner for each of the three school-based categories and one community organization who provides opportunities for students across the city.

Award Winners:Youth Impact Award: This award recognizes student groups who have made a significant impact by addressing important issues in their classroom, school, or community. To be considered for this recognition, student groups had to demonstrate evidence of completing research, engaging community members, and formulating and implementing solutions.

  • Team TACTICS from Phillips Academy High School is being recognized for its work to foster stronger relationships between the community and law enforcement by developing workshops and a curriculum for their school. The organization was founded two years ago, but recently the students have expanded their focus to address issues connected to school disciplinary practices based on input from their school community. Their work has been shared at the Aspen Ideas Festival as an example of how Chicago youth have driven meaningful and sustainable change within their communities.

  • The Ogden-Jenner Student Voice Committee (SVC) is being recognized for its impact on important issues in the school community following the merger of Ogden and Jenner Elementary schools at the beginning of this school year. The group has played an important role in school decision-making and promoting a positive school culture. The SVC has been the representative voice of students on issues such as school climate, the local school council, school-wide planning, and owning the narrative about what the merger has meant to them. The SVC’s central role in school decision-making makes it an exemplar of student voice and action to drive community change.

Civic Culture and Commitment Award: This award recognizes schools that have made a commitment to building opportunities for students to have authentic and meaningful civic learning both in the classroom and throughout the school. These schools value students in their decision-making and policy development processes and infuse best practice civic education throughout students’ coursework.

  • Michele Clark High School is being recognized because it exemplifies the role of a school community in realizing CPS’ mission to prepare students for civic life by engaging the talents and strengths of young people. Clark offers a wide variety of classes connecting course content and skills to current topics and issues impacting students’ lives today, and it uniquely empowers students to take action through unique learning opportunities, such as a course specifically focused on student leadership. By including students in its decision-making processes, Clark ensures students are active partners in a collaborative effort to promote student success.

  • Dever Elementary School is being recognized for integrating civics education into all grade levels and prioritizing student voice by including students in administrative meetings and school decision-making. Notable examples of student decision-making include the administration consulting with students on making a remodeled space more positive and student-centered, and ensuring students regularly contribute to local school council meetings. Dever’s commitment to civic learning is strengthened by civics best practices such as discussion and deliberation, and taking informed action in all disciplines.

Civic Education Leadership Award: This award honors educators who model civic leadership by creatively and powerfully providing opportunities for young people to engage actively in their community. These individuals stand out for their commitment to providing space, encouragement, and guidance for youth voice and leadership.

  • Elizabeth Robbins, Teacher at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, is being recognized for her work prioritizing and advocating for the voices of young people throughout her 15-year career as an educator, Lead Civics Teacher, and leader of Brooks’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club and Student Voice Committee, where she supports student advocacy for a stronger school and community. Under Ms. Robbins’s leadership, Brooks’s Student Voice Committee recently led a data-driven professional development for the entire school staff. Her work has been featured locally and nationally, from TedX to the Teaching Channel.

  • Shana Pearlmutter and Peter Barash, Teachers at Bell Elementary School, are receiving the award for their work as the founders of their school’s Legacy Project, which enables students to investigate issues relevant to them and communicate their ideas through murals at the school, leaving an impact on the school community for generations to come. Students are able to use these murals to positively impact the school’s culture by highlighting topics such as how to be proactive citizens and how to increase environmental sustainability in their school community. By weaving project-based learning with real-world issues, both teachers have demonstrated a commitment to student inquiry, investigation and civic learning.

Community Partner Award: This award recognizes organizations that exemplify collaborative and meaningful partnership between schools and community organizations to empower student voice and civic engagement. These organizations honor youth voice and use their expertise to collaborate with youth to support high quality civic learning in schools and classrooms.

  • Voices of Youth in Chicago’s Education (VOYCE) is receiving this recognition for its work in advancing civic learning for students of color in different communities across Chicago. Through rich partnerships with CPS schools, VOYCE supports meaningful student civic engagement and project-based learning on issues facing communities. VOYCE has empowered CPS students to organize advocacy campaigns focused on issues that matter to them, such as mental health, school discipline and youth relationships with law enforcement.

About Chicago Public Schools' Commitment to Civics Education:

Chicago Public Schools has partnered with educators and the non-profit and philanthropic communities to expand opportunities for young people to re-imagine and change their schools and communities through civics. The district outlined ambitious goals through its Ready to Engage three-year action plan to strengthen civics education and expand engagement opportunities for students across Chicago.

Chicago Public Schools serves 361,000 students in 644 schools. It is the nation's third-largest school district.



CPS Office of Communications

(773) 553-1620

Obama Foundation

Courtney Williams

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